Texans @ Panthers
Final Score: Panthers 15, Texans 13
Writer: Brett Ford (@fadethatman on Twitter)
In what was just the fifth all-time meeting of rookie quarterbacks taken first and second overall, and the first game ever in which each of the first three picks in the NFL Draft competed in the same game in their rookie season, the Carolina Panthers edged the Houston Texans on a last-second field goal to earn their first victory of the season.
Neither offense was very effective, as the two teams combined to gain just 453 yards of total offense. Despite the struggles, C.J. Stroud led the Texans to a go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter but Bryce Young got the last laugh: he took the Panthers’ offense down the field for a game-winning field goal in the final seconds to earn the win.
There were very few bright spots in this game from a fantasy standpoint, outside of the defenses.
Let’s dig in.
C.J. Stroud: 16/24, 140 Yards | 2 Carries, 13 Yards, TD
C.J. Stroud was simply not the same quarterback that we’ve grown accustomed to seeing on Sundays. He completed just 16 passes for a season-low 140 passing yards. Nearly every throw targeted a short to intermediate route, and the few long shots he took were inaccurate. Stroud was sacked twice and had several passes broken up at the line of scrimmage. It just seemed like an off day for the second-overall pick.
Stroud demonstrated a few flashes of the elite talent that we’ve seen already this season, including an incredible pass to Noah Brown through a tight window, but overall it just wasn’t a good day.
CJ Stroud went 4/4 for 45 yards on 3rd downs on that drive, leading the #Texans down the field for FB Andrew Beck to punch it in ?
Stroud had some dimes, none better than this throw on a rope to Noah Brown ?pic.twitter.com/yOjmSncDHv
— Jordan Pun (@Texans_Thoughts) October 29, 2023
He salvaged a middling fantasy score with a rushing touchdown, but surely fantasy managers (and Texans fans) were looking for more out of their budding star.
Dameon Pierce: 12 carries, 46 yards
Like a bull in a phone booth, Pierce barreled into the backs of his interior offensive linemen 12 times and managed to come away with 46 yards. He had a two-yard touchdown taken off the board after being ruled down just before the goal line during the review process. On the next play, fullback Andrew Beck vultured the touchdown. At least Beck let Pierce spike the ball. Of course, that didn’t account for any fantasy points.
Pierce’s fantasy managers should be concerned with the fairly even playing time on early downs shared with Devin Singletary, and even more concerned by several goal line touches going elsewhere (Stroud and Beck) despite Pierce being lined up on the field for both scores.
Devin Singletary: 10 carries, 30 yards | 2 targets, 2 receptions, 13 yards
Singletary was on the field nearly as much as Pierce was, earning 23 offensive snaps to Pierce’s 25. In a nearly even early-down timeshare, Singletary toted the ball 10 times and was in the game for both of the Texans’ short-yardage snaps. In the passing game, he was more involved than Pierce, playing on 3 of 10 third downs and pulling in both of his targets for modest gains.
Andrew Beck: 2 carries, 1 yard, TD | 1 target, 1 reception, 8 yards
He vultured a one-yard touchdown from Pierce on one of his three touches. Entering this game, Andrew Beck had only two touches through six contests. At least he let Pierce in on the celebration.
— Scott Spratt (@Scott_Spratt) October 29, 2023
Mike Boone: 1 carry, 5 yards | 1 target, 1 carry, 11 yards
Another piece of this interesting running back puzzle, Mike Boone was used as a third-down back on seven of the Texans’ third down opportunities. He has no fantasy value and merely exists to siphon some from both Pierce and Singletary.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
Noah Brown: 5 targets, 3 receptions, 57 yards
Brown was on the field for 42 snaps and ran 24 routes, good for second-most among the Texans’ receivers on the day. He pulled in three catches for a team-high 57 yards but didn’t pop off the screen on any of his plays. Until Robert Woods returns from injury, Brown will likely continue to be on the field for nearly every 11-personnel snap. Unfortunately, that’s not likely to yield much in the way of fantasy value.
Nico Collins: 6 targets, 4 receptions, 30 yards
A team-high six targets and four receptions yielded just 30 yards receiving for Collins, who seemed to struggle to generate separation from the Carolina secondary. Just when it looked like he was evolving from being a boom-or-bust option at receiver, Collins offered another dud. He has topped 140 receiving yards in two games and failed to reach 40 yards receiving in three others so far this season.
Tank Dell: 3 carries, 15 yards | 4 targets, 3 receptions, 16 yards
Easily the most interesting of the Texans’ wideouts, Dell was used in a number of ways, running a team-high 25 routes as a traditional receiver and toting the ball three times. He even carried the ball out of the backfield and lined up next to Stroud in the shotgun on a read option. Dell gained nearly all of his rushing yards on one spectacular play, showing his elusiveness with a juke and spin combo that left a pair of defenders looking around for him in a cloud of dust.
This juke from Tank Dell was crazy ? pic.twitter.com/vwmLmGvNxR
— Bradeaux (@BradeauxNBA) October 29, 2023
Dalton Schultz: 5 targets, 2 receptions, 5 yards
Schultz was targeted five times but pulled in just two catches for five yards. He broke his three-game touchdown streak with an absolute disappointment of a game in this one.
Bryce Young: 22/31, 235 Yards, TD | 4 Carries, 11 Yards
Bryce Young was far from spectacular, but the first overall pick in last year’s draft did enough to defeat C.J. Stroud and the Texans on Sunday at home. Young was calm and collected in the pocket, despite being sacked six times. He delivered the ball with accuracy as head coach Frank Reich drew up plays to stretch the defense horizontally (not vertically) and create windows for his quarterback to find receivers.
His best play of the game was arguably this pass from the second quarter when he spun out of a sack and dropped a pass into the hands of Thielen on the sideline. If the Panthers could improve their red zone efficiency, Young could be a sneaky add for quarterback-needy teams late in the year.
People are reminded why the #Panthers selected Bryce Young first overall…
— SCOUTD (@scoutdnfl) October 29, 2023
Chuba Hubbard: 15 carries, 28 yards | 2 targets, 2 receptions, 26 yards
It’s Chuba time in Carolina! Chuba Hubbard was on the field for 45 of the Panthers’ 67 offensive snaps and earned 17 touches compared to just two for Miles Sanders. Not only that, but Hubbard was the primary back on third downs and in the two-minute drill as well, catching a pair of passes for 26 yards. The changing of the guard in the Panthers backfield could be the result of Sanders still recovering from multiple injuries, but he was a full participant in practice this week by all reports, so it might be a change that the coaching staff felt compelled to make based on production.
Miles Sanders: 2 carries
Oh boy. Despite receiving the most lucrative contract of any free agent running back during the offseason, this backfield doesn’t appear to belong to Sanders any longer. He wasn’t active at all in the passing game and wasn’t on the field even one-third as much as Hubbard. Unless there’s a clear indication from the coaching staff that more work is coming his way next week, Sanders is droppable.
Raheem Blackshear: 3 carries, 5 yards | 2 targets, 2 receptions, 26 yards
Used primarily as a change of pace back and kick returner, Blackshear has seen increased usage in the passing game with Hubbard being moved to primary back. Sanders was nearly completely phased out on Sunday.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
Adam Thielen: 11 targets, 8 receptions, 72 yards
Young’s “Old Reliable” receiver, Thielen was targeted a team-high 11 times and pulled in eight catches for 72 yards. On nearly exclusively short to intermediate routes, Thielen continues to show that he still has the chops to be a solid fantasy receiver, especially in PPR formats. He was open in the end zone on the play that Tremble scored the Panthers’ lone touchdown, but wasn’t the first read.
Jonathan Mingo: 5 targets, 4 receptions, 62 yards
With Laviska Shenault, Jr. hurt and Terrace Marshall, Jr. seeking a trade, Mingo was on the field for nearly every play. He pulled in four catches for a career-high 62 yards and looked completely serviceable as a route runner and receiver. The rookie wide receiver has an opportunity to lay claim to the WR2 spot in Carolina if he can remain consistent.
D.J. Chark: 4 targets, 2 receptions, 23 yards
Young missed Chark on back-to-back deep balls in the second quarter, but found him for a 20-yard completion later in the drive. That one catch made up nearly all of Chark’s yardage on the day as he pulled in just one other catch.
Tommy Tremble: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 4 yards, TD
Tommy Tremble seems to have taken over as the primary tight end, as he was on the field for 36 snaps while Hayden Hurst recorded just 22 snaps; Stephen Sullivan logged 13. Though he was in the game to block for most of his plays, he did run 13 routes and was targeted twice. He pulled in a nice touchdown grab from the goal line, battling through linebacker coverage on an out-breaking route to make the catch.
Bryce Young to Tommy Tremble TD!
— Keep Purring Podcast (Ben) (@KeepPurringBen) October 29, 2023
Hayden Hurst: 2 targets
Terrace Marshall Jr.: 1 target, 1 reception, 9 yards
Stephen Sullivan: 1 target, 1 reception, 13 yards